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Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans most commonly presents in the knee joint. Symptoms generally start gradually and begin as a mild ache. Over time the knee becomes painful to move and may be swollen and sore to touch it. The knee pain is aggravated by weight-bearing and other activities that put pressure on that area. This is most common in children and teenagers, but can affect anyone up to the age of 50. Diagnosis is made through a thorough physical examination and confirmed through X-ray.

The Cause:

The femoral condyle is the area of the knee that is in contact between the two bones of the leg (the femur and the tibia). The inside or medial condyle is most commonly affected because it bears most of the weight of the body. The area of bone underneath the cartilage is the area that is injured. This leads to loss of blood supply to this area of the bone, which leads to a small area of the bone dying. This area of the knee is under stress constantly and does not get time to rest and heal.

As the problem becomes worse the affected area of the bone may collapse or break free, causing a notch to form in the otherwise smooth surface of the joint. This can cause damage to the cartilage of the joint. If the dead area of bone becomes detached it is known as a ‘loose body’ in the joint and can float around within the joint causing locking or catching and pain.


Osteochondritis will probably never heal, but can be treated either non-surgically or surgically.

Non-surgical Treatment

Non-surgical treatment can help in about 50% of cases. Treatment consists of use of crutches and rest to take pressure off the area and allow it to heal on its own. This can take up to 10-18 months. As symptoms begin to improve it is important to start exercises that start to strengthen the knee without putting weight on it.

Surgical Treatment

If the piece of bone becomes totally detached, surgery will be required to fix the loose body. If surgery is required then bone scans, X-ray or MRIs may be necessary. This surgery is now performed arthroscopically (through tiny insertions with the use of a camera).

Give our Waterloo chiropractic office a call to schedule an appointment and see how we can help you or someone you know.